Thursday, May 04, 2006

From darkness comes light and from silence comes sound

There is something a bit intimidating about darkness and silence. Be it a dark room that you hesitate to enter for what awaits you is unknown, or the stark silence of a long moment where sound is absent, each of these brings with them their own feelings of apprehension.

In the midst of darkness and silence we cry out for light, for sound, for anything to break the emptiness of what we are experiencing. The ironic thing is that darkness and silence weave in and out of our lives on a daily basis bringing both fear and peace. But that peace only comes when we know that the darkness and silence are not eternal, are not our destiny. We can appreciate what they bring when we know that light and sound will soon pierce their emptiness and fill our lives with something more.

Not sure why I’m thinking on all of this. Something in my mind is tossing this idea around and I’m just beginning to get some clarity to what I’m figuring out (although it is neither new nor profound but maybe more of a relearning).

I think really it is the beauty of a sunrise that captures so intently the starkness of the piercing of darkness by light. From the blackest of black, the emptiness of night comes forth not just light but an abundance of color that begins at the horizon and spreads across the sky shutting out the darkness. The amazing thing is that without the darkness the sunrise would not be as spectacular, for light among light blends together and the brilliancy of it is lost within its equal. But when contrasts of darkness and light meet at battle in the dawn, we see in those first few moments just how bright the light is in comparison to darkness.

The same idea plays itself out in silence. Complete, utter silence can be overwhelming, the absence of “white noise” of movement, of life. It feels so lonely amongst the silence. As if you are the only person living and yet you’re not even sure you are in fact living because even the sound of your breath is silenced. And then in the midst of nothing comes forth sound. Even a sharp peeling of an alarm sounds harmonious in that stark nothingness. And yet if silence is intruded by a beautiful melody or one long perfect note, there is so much comfort and warmth in that sound. For rhythm brings life and harmony. In the emptiness of silence a note, a melody, a song brings with it the knowledge we are not alone.

And so from both light and sound come life, a beautiful bounty of life.

Pondering on this reminds me of a section from C.S. Lewis’s The Wizard’s Nephew (the prequel to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe). The imagery of this scene says in words more wondrous and melodious than my own what I think of when I picture light and sound piercing darkness and silence.

And really it was uncommonly like Nothing. There were no stars. It was so dark that they couldn’t see one another at all and it made no difference whether you kept your eyes shut or opened. Under their feet there was a cool, flat something, which might have been earth, and was certainly not grass or wood. The air was cold and dry and there was no wind.

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. There were no words, there was hardly even a tune, but it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.

Then, two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the Voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count: cold, tingling silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

The Voice on the earth was now louder and more triumphant; but the voices in the sky, after singing loudly with it for a time, began to get fainter. And now something else was happening. Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky, in that one place grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing. It was soon light enough for them to see one another’s faces. The two children had open mouths and shining eyes; they were drinking in the sound, and they looked as if it reminded them of something.

The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose.

Digory had never seen such a sun. You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley of mere earth, rock and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen. The earth was of many colours: they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.

It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy and bright, it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song and it was about three hundred yards away. The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle rippling music. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the side of the little hills like a wave.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. Copyright © C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1955.


Blogger Ben said...

C.S. Lewis is great... such a way with words...

I like your point ... when sound is absent, it bring a feeling of apprehension. (I paraphrased your words.)

For some reason, when I read this line, I was immediately transported back to the Baptist Church in Frazee where my dad used to preach at... It was my job to check the pews and make sure that the pencils were sharp and that the visitor cards were stocked. It scared the CRAP out of me... the sanctuary was always eerily quiet... almost out of reverance. And it was darker in there than in the church foyer. So as a 6 year old, I would open the door and sprint as fast as I could down the isle and check the pencils in the first row... and then make note of whether I needed to put new visitor cards in the slot... and then sprint back out. It was my weekly routine and it was spooky.

God must have been just laughing at me.

So, you're post rings true... stark silence is not good.

5/04/2006 1:49 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I havent read this one. I need to I guess.

I am just laughing at the vision of young Benster running scared in church. I can relate with that!

5/04/2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

well speaking of memories of church sanctuaries, our church had chairs in our last sanctuary, red plastic chairs that hooked together and for some reason in high school i remember a few friends and I racing to see who could squirm on our stomachs from the back of the sanctuary to the front, and it was a LONG way, funny that your memory made me remember that (oh and the sanctuary was dark when we would this - helped us not get caught)

5/04/2006 1:53 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

It brings... not it bring...

If I am going to paraphrase, I better do it right.

5/04/2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

Great thoughts. I can't deal with silence. I have to have some music in the background or something. I really should overcome that as part of making the spiritual disciplines more a part of my life. But it's hard. So I'd say that to an extent I fear silence.

5/04/2006 1:59 PM  
Blogger Katie said...


Bobby - I'm getting more comfortable with silence but have you ever noticed how loud silence can be?

5/04/2006 2:19 PM  
Anonymous jes said...

it's been a long time since i've *read* this series. i've watched the movie, i've listened to all the books on tape, but i was probably a child last time i read them.

i shall do that in the near future.

5/04/2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger Amstaff Mom said...

I need to read them, I know I do. I tried as a kiddo and it was to out there for me. But maybe I need to give it a whirl.

Just to not confuse your readership - you have The Wizard's Nephew in one place and the Magician's Nephew in the credits.

5/04/2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger Tim Rice said...

I agree that utter silence can be threatening yet not always. Sometimes the world gets so noisy that I strive to shut out all sound and it brings peace.

But most times I do keep sound around me. Silence that I haven't sought often can be unsettling. Utter silence for eternity would be hell.

5/04/2006 5:28 PM  
Blogger Bobby said...

Silence: sometimes loud, sometimes unsettling. Very true.

But I was talking with a buddy the other day who lamented how little we pay attention to "Be still, and know that I am God."

5/05/2006 8:06 AM  
Blogger Jayleigh said...

Ohhhhhh Katie!!! I just read that last week. The whole leading-up to the exerpt, I kept thinking it was exactly like when Aslan created Narnia.

I hadn't ever read the books before... Rob and I read the two last week and are now reading the Horse and His Boy. FANTASTIC!!!!!

5/05/2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger Deals On Wheels said...

I read the series when I was little. I LOVED it, but most of the story morphed into my young imagination - just like it did with THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It was weird, because as I got older I couldn't remember where the books left off and my imagination began. Since the movies have been coming out, though, I’m starting to figure it out.

5/06/2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Amstaff Mom said...

I think your writing is just as amazing as C.S. Lewis'. Honestly.

You are a FANTASTIC writer K-T.

5/07/2006 12:33 PM  
Blogger Aim Claim said...

"We can appreciate what they bring when we know that light and sound will soon pierce their emptiness and fill our lives with something more."

ahhhhhh... what an amazing thought... can't wait for something more!

5/10/2006 2:18 PM  
Blogger Aim Claim said...

ps. Love the The Magician’s Nephew and I think it is really funny that you cited the source to that extent! ha-ha

5/10/2006 2:19 PM  

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